Here at Kayak, we are big fans of LinkedIn (arguably the most important social media site for some types of businesses and professionals), as well as anything that reduces spam.
So, you’d imagine that we would be big fans of their SWAM program, short for Site Wide Auto Moderation, which gives individuals the power to essentially block and ban people who post inappropriate or unsolicited content to message boards and discussion groups.
In just a short period of time, however, it appears that SWAM goes a bit too far.
At its heart, the concept is a good one: Give individual moderators enough power to deal with spammers on their own boards, and you don’t have to rely on automated tools that might either go too far, or not far enough. Humans do a much better job than computer programs at spotting spam and dealing with it, so it only makes sense to put the power in their hands… at least in theory.
In the real-world application, though, things get more complicated.
That’s because it only takes one person – possibly a competitor, or someone with their own motives – to flag you before every post you make on every forum has to be moderated. In other words, it’s extraordinarily easy for unscrupulous marketers to turn the power of SWAM against others, and there isn’t much you can do about it, even if you haven’t posted a single piece of spam or violated any rules or policies.
Sadly, we learned about this problem because we had to deal with it firsthand, when someone who didn’t like the attention we were putting on their spam-like behaviour decided to make things difficult. Since then, we’ve been exploring a number of options and best practices, and we’d like to share a few of them with you now:
First and foremost, do the right things and pay attention to your online reputation.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t engage in spamming tactics or try to annoy people into buying from you. It doesn’t work, but it is a good way to get yourself uninvited from LinkedIn and just about every other social media site on the planet. Be a responsible marketer and look after your online reputation proactively.
If you have been wrongly affected by SWAM, or want to be sure you aren’t in the future, speak up. There are a number of groups that are collecting Internet signatures to contact LinkedIn and recommend changes to the SWAM policy (for instance, measures that would require multiple users to report an issue, so the decision can’t be made by one single person). If you use LinkedIn regularly, it’s worth taking a moment to join these and let your opinion be heard.
Don’t engage in shady marketing tactics yourself.
It’s only natural, when so many people are being unfairly targeted by SWAM, to expect that many of them will start to report others, in turn. This “fight fire with fire” kind of strategy makes a certain amount of sense, but doesn’t really help anyone in the long term. So, pull back the urge to retaliate and instead work on fixing your own profiles. In time, LinkedIn may change their policies so that users who unnecessarily file SWAM reports are punished and banned themselves. Let’s hope.
And as always, diversify your marketing plans and platforms.
Luckily for us, we have inbound traffic and online leads coming from several different sources, so being moderated on LinkedIn has been an inconvenience, but not something that has noticeably affected our business. You should build a similar model, because you never want to be dependent on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other single source of traffic and new leads.
For the time being, there aren’t a lot of easy answers around SWAM, since it can be difficult to undo the damage once it’s been done. But, what you can do if you’ve been a victim is take solace in the fact that someone thinks you’re important or threatening enough to go through the effort – in time, SWAM will pass, but your overall Internet marketing advantage won’t.
Helpful advice from LinkedIn’s Katie (Customer Advocacy Supervisor):
Discussion and comments may be pending in a specific group because a user was blocked and removed from another group by its manager or owner. If a user is experiencing this issue across multiple groups, their postings to other groups are still submitted, but they are now pending until a member of the group’s management team approves it for posting.
This helps ensure a certain level of professionalism in postings. It doesn’t mean the user’s posting quality is poor. Instead, it’s a way to ensure that the group’s management can monitor content from members in their group who’ve been blocked from other groups.
Please note that we can’t provide a list of groups the user was blocked from.
Any group owner or manager can un-restrict posting permissions in their group. Users can contact the group’s management team and request that they allow discussions and comments to post in their group. Here’s how:
- Click “Groups” at the top of your homepage.
- Click the group’s name.
- Click the “i” Information and settings icon near the top right.
- Click “Group Profile” or “Subgroup Profile”.
- In the “About this Group” box on the right, move your cursor over the name of a group owner or manager, and click “Send Message” when it appears.
Note: If the “Send Message” link doesn’t appear, the group manager has chosen not to receive messages from other group members. If the group has other managers, you might try moving your cursor over their name to see if the “Send Message” link is shown.